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SEC referee Matt Austin leaves the field for the TV studio

Long-time SEC referee Matt Austin has traded in his whistle for a microphone, as he joins ESPN and the SEC Network as an officiating analyst.



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According to a news release, long-time Southeastern Conference referee Matt Austin has retired from active officiating and will join ESPN and the SEC Network as an officiating expert.

This is a newly created role by ESPN and the SEC. Austin will contribute to weekly games and studio shows from the SEC Network studios in Charlotte, N.C.

Austin began his college officiating at the NAIA level in the Mid-South Conference. He worked four years in the Ohio Valley Conference and then 15 years in the SEC.

During his tenure, the SEC almost always had a representative in the college football National Championship game. That prevented Austin (and all SEC officials) from working the national championship game, but he worked several major bowl games, including the 2015 Rose Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff Semifinal.

In that game, Austin faced a nightmare scenario, as a live ball flew right at him (video at 2:20:10 above). The Florida State quarterback scrambled, lost control of the ball, and the ball sailed right at Austin. Unfortunately, Austin tripped while backpedaling out of the way and fell down on national TV. Later replays showed a chuckling Austin jogging behind the play (while probably preparing for a razzing in the postgame locker room).

In total, Austin worked 12 postseason assignments, including two College Football Playoff semifinal games and three SEC Championship Games.

What started years ago with Fox hiring Mike Periera, has turned into a boon not only for retiring officials, but for the fans who get to peek behind the curtain and see what goes into making the calls. Currently, Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino work for Fox, Gene Steratore works at CBS, Terry McAulay works for NBC and Sunday Night Football and starting this fall, John Parry will work on ESPN and Monday Night Football. Previously, Mike Carey worked for CBS and Gerald Austin and Jeff Triplette worked for Monday Night Football.

Congratulations to Matt Austin on a fine career and best wishes in front of the camera.

Cover photo from ESPN


Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"